Coffee counterculture - fika and cinnamon buns

Forget complicated names or vegan milk alternatives, coffee is going back to basics. Just ask Swedes like Rebecca Konradsdal and Emily Svedner, who are helping change the way we drink coffee, whether you’re in Stockholm or LA. Welcome to the ‘third wave’ of coffee


Andrés fell in love with fika when he lived in Falkenberg, Sweden. So much so that, when he moved to Los Angeles, he opened The Boy and The Bear as an homage to Swedish coffee culture. He sees the cafe as a part of the ‘third wave’ of coffee, which places importance on the quality of the beans, where they’re grown and how the drink is made. It’s more like wine tasting than regular coffee drinking.

“We encourage our customers to drink their coffee black,” says Andrés. Emily explains: “You don’t want to mix it with sugar and milk because you don’t get the flavours you can experience with good-quality coffee.”

One of the drinks that marks out The Boy and The Bear is a ‘gesha’, made from coffee beans Fed-Exed from Colombia. At $10 a cup, it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Making it takes around seven minutes and involves using a Chemex jar – an hourglass-shaped coffee-maker which was developed by Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1950s. The Chemex is considered such a design classic that an example of one is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“This process is super-important,” says Andrés of what it takes to make a perfect cup of gesha coffee. “We have to grind the coffee right at the time we’re going to brew it. Coffee has a life of probably five minutes, so that way you don’t miss all the aromas, all the fragrances, all this fruitiness.”

“You don’t want to mix it with sugar and milk because you don’t get the flavours you can experience with good-quality coffee”


The Boy and The Bear

Another key factor in making any sort of decent coffee is the roasting. “We use a 5kg roaster,” says Emily. “It’s the smallest one in the industry. That actually gives us more control, so we can make hand-roasted small batches every single time.”

Back in Stockholm, thoughts turn once more to how Sweden looks at the modern world, stripping things down to their key components, and making sure they’re as good as they can be. Something that’s as true in coffee as it is in design or car making.

“When you order a coffee in a lot of the world’s great cities, you’re going to be offered skinny lattes and cappuccinos and all that,” says Jacob from Gastrologik. “But in Sweden I like to think that it’s just about simple, great coffee. Nothing more.”

Apart, of course, from a delicious cinnamon bun. It wouldn’t be fika without it.